Five days ago, I boarded a plane to Anaheim California and the ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza. The E as it is often called is a gathering of people who work, volunteer, etc with children, youth and families. This is my third E and I seriously love the time of learning, connecting with collegues, etc. It is balm for my soul that always completely refills my cup.
This year was no different, but for me, this time was needed this year more than ever. For those that regularly read this blog, you know my familie’s story but for those of you that don’t, I am a daughter of a woman who lives daily with bipolar disorder. Since 2002, my sister and I have served as our mom’s legal guardians. She also has lived in a nursing home since that time. But this summer, things shifted again. Mom seems to be beginning to show signs of dementia. She has completely stopped calling my sister and I weekly. It is something that I can’t even begin to comprehend; a journey of mental illness AND dementia.
As the oldest, I often am the one left with a lot of the responsibility. I am a strong woman, but I forget how quickly this illness, our story and so much more wears on me. The E, for so many, who attend is, I believe, a space for us to share our stories with others whether it be around a supper table, or coffee table or wherever it might be. I know that I can count on these souls to bear my burdens; to share in my deepest joys and sorrows. It is holy space that often takes pieces of my heart; pieces that I know others will hold when I cannot hold or put them back together myself.
This afternoon I tweeted these words “How is it that you can finally meet friends in real life and you feel like you have left a piece of your heart with each of them.” Those words capture how I feel about this wonderful community of leaders in our church; leaders who sometimes also struggle in the wondering of life. Yet that is exactly who and what this community is about; that when we forget our sense of wonder and forget our believing, we remind each other to keep believing and to keep wondering even when life doesn’t make any sense at all.
These people; my friends walked with me as I got to experience my first EVER Disney experience. They let me wonder and drink from new life rather than from the nasty dirty cup of nostalgia. They listened as I shared how I felt God had called me to write my book “‘Chasing our Untils.” And for that I am forever thankful; forever grateful; grateful for a community of colleagues who hold a piece of my heart and always will.
Thank You for all you do E team to make this event such a success and blessing. I don’t think we say it enough, so I am saying it for all 600 plus of us in attendance this weekend. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You for a network where we can sit, wonder and be refilled in the midst of this crazy spirit filled work.
I seriously love this! I understand your burden as well challenge and joy that you have with your mom. I am experiencing some of that with my dad but their stories aren't the same. What I can say is "I understand the pain and heartache that comes with caring for parents". You are strong but God is always stronger.
Your time at the E conference sounds like one big blessing on so many levels. I am happy with you that you were able to have this time of fellowship, renewal and restoration. Praying the rest of your week is one big blessing!
Thanks Mary! Love this: "You are strong but God is always stronger." The E was fantastic! It is one of my favorite continuing ed events.